Connecticut's Early General Records: A Timeline

 

1636: The General Court of Massachusetts commissions a group of eight leaders, that becomes known as the General Court, "to govern the people at Connecticut" for the year beginning March 1636.

 

1638: The Particular Court is established. While the General Court had overall (general) responsibility for administering the colony as a whole, the Particular Court becomes the principal tribunal for settling issues between individual (particular) parties. New Haven is founded as a separate colony.

 

1639: The Fundamental Orders provide for all freemen of the Connecticut Colony to elect a governor, six magistrates, and four deputies from each of the three towns (Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor). As new towns are organized, the number of deputies grows. Town courts are established.

 

1642: The Particular Court is required to meet every three months (called "Quarter Court" during such sessions; called "Particular Court" when meeting at irregular times).

 

1650: The Code of 1650 includes provisions for the recording of births and marriages, the publishing of marriage intentions, and the age at which minors could choose their guardians.

 

1662: Connecticut receives its new Charter, which expands its territory to encompass the New Haven Colony (and lands westward to the "South Sea"). The General Court becomes the General Assembly.

 

1662/3: The General Court provides that a group of Assistants may act in emergencies when the General Court is not in session. These Assistants become the Governor's Council.

 

1665-66: The union of the Connecticut and New Haven colonies is completed. The Particular Court is abolished and replaced with the Court of Assistants (1665) and County Courts (1666).

 

1698: The Governor's Council becomes the Upper House; the deputies become the Lower House. Probate courts are established to handle such matters as wills and estates.

 

1711: The Court of Assistants is abolished. The newly created Superior Court assumes its powers.

 

1741: The General Assembly directs the Secretary of the Colony "to sort, date and file in proper order, all the ancient papers that now lye in disorder and unfilled in his office."

 

May 1771: The General Assembly directs Gov. Jonathan Trumbull to "collect all the publick letters and papers which hereafter in any way affect the interest of this Colony and have the same bound together, that they may be preserved."

 

May 1772: The General Assembly directs Secretary George Wyllys to make a handwritten copy of the first book of the Records of the Colony of Connecticut and of the Records of the New Haven Colony.

 

1818: A new state Constitution is adopted, separating church and state and creating three separate branches of government.

 

1841-45: Sylvester Judd of Massachusetts is hired to acquire, organize, and index Connecticut's early colonial and state papers to the year 1820. These records become known as the "Connecticut Archives".

 

1849: The General Assembly provides funds to begin editing and publishing The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut. James Hammond Trumbull, the first editor, publishes volume one, covering 1636-1665, in 1850.

 

Sources: Connecticut State Register and ManualTime-Line of Important Dates in the History of Connecticut's Public Records and State Archives Programs; "Key Dates in the History of Connecticut's Courts", prepared by the External Affairs Division, Office of the Chief Court Administrator.